May 102017
 

An idea put forward by the Australian Government about a year ago has almost become a reality with the introduction into Parliament on 30 March 2017 of the ASIC Supervisory Cost Recovery Levy Act 2017 to establish an industry funding model for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and with the release on 4 May 2017 of draft regulations for consultation.

The idea –  to enable the recovery of the regulatory costs of ASIC by imposing a levy on persons regulated by ASIC – was described in Parliament by the Assistant Minister to the Treasurer (Mr Sukkar) as follows:

Industry funding of ASIC will mean that … those entities that create the need for that regulation will be the ones who pay for it—as opposed to Australian taxpayers—who too often bear the cost of financial sector misconduct.  Further, because each regulated subsector will only ever pay an amount equal to its costs of supervision, industry funding will promote equity between different regulated entities. This is because certain industry subsectors will no longer cross-subsidise the costs of the regulation of other sectors.

The laws are due to take effect on 1 July 2017.  General news article: “Companies face levy in ASIC funding overhaul”.

ASIC Supervisory Cost Recovery Levy Regulations 2017

The closing date for submissions regarding the proposed Regulations is 26 May 2017.

In releasing its consultation paper for the Regulations the Treasury department said:

The Government is seeking stakeholder views on the draft regulations necessary to support the industry funding model, which will recover (the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s)  regulatory costs though annual levies and fees-for-service. The proposed regulations are to establish the mechanisms that will be used to calculate the levies payable by each class of regulated entity, each financial year.

There are 6 industry sectors covered by the Regulations. Each sector has several industry subsectors.  In all there are 48 industry subsectors. Each subsector  describes the “leviable entity” that is included in the industry subsector.

Registered liquidators levy

Registered liquidators are in the industry sector named Corporate, and are leviable entities in a subsector named, not surprisingly, registered liquidators.

The levy to be imposed on each registered liquidator in a financial year is the sum of:

(a)  the minimum levy component (which is proposed to be $2,500); and

(b)  the graduated levy component.  The graduated levy component is a variable amount depending on each entity’s share of the total number of notifiable events for the subsector.  The Regulations define what constitutes a notifiable event (see below).  ASIC will prescribe its regulatory costs and the total number of these notifiable events for the subsector as part of its annual legislative instrument. Continue reading »

New Corporate Insolvency Laws commencing 1 March 2017

 ASIC, Corporate Insolvency, Insolvency practices, Regulation, Standards  Comments Off on New Corporate Insolvency Laws commencing 1 March 2017
Mar 072017
 

Commencing on 1 March 2017 are some of the changes to Australia’s corporate insolvency legislation that were approved when the Insolvency Law Reform Act was passed in 2016. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), the regulator of the Corporations Act, has issued a table listing and summarizing what it says are the key changes. Set out below is a copy of that table. (The original is available to view at ASIC).

For a convenient list of NEW ASIC FORMS and AMENDED ASIC FORMS go to this EMAIL extract from ASIC to registered liquidators on 6 March 2017. NOTE: Some of the new and amended forms have not yet been released by ASIC (7/3/2017).

………………………………….

Corporate Insolvency Law Reform – key changes effective from 1 March 2017

Subjects

  1. Registration Process
  2. Industry wide conditions
  3. Applying to vary or remove a condition or to lift or shorten a suspension
  4. Renewal of registration
  5. The Liquidator Register
  6. Insurance
  7. Annual liquidator return
  8. Notice of significant, and other, events
  9. ASIC power to direct registered liquidator to lodge documents or give information or correct inaccuracies
  10. ASIC power to cancel or suspend a person’s registration
  11. Disciplinary action by a committee
  12. Notice by industry body of possible grounds for disciplinary action
  13. Court oversight of registered liquidators
  14. Registration and disciplinary committees
  15. Administrator’s notice to owner or lessor of property
  16. Notice – material contravention of deed of company arrangement
  17. Company’s former name
  18. Relation back day
  19. Lodging declarations of relevant relationships and indemnities
  20. Lodgement requirements relating to pooled groups


Continue reading »

New ASIC guide on how to become, and behave as, a registered liquidator

 ASIC, Corporate Insolvency, External administration, Insolvency practices, Regulation  Comments Off on New ASIC guide on how to become, and behave as, a registered liquidator
Mar 022017
 

Registered Liquidators: Registration, disciplinary actions and insurance requirements.

ASIC Regulatory Guide RG258, Issued: 1 March 2017

Australian Securities and Investments Commission:

This guide is for individuals who are or wish to become registered liquidators under … the Corporations Act 2001 …. This guide explains how to apply for registration as a liquidator, including the requirements that must be met to become a registered liquidator. This guide also explains the renewal of registration process, the disciplinary and other actions a registered liquidator may be subject to and our policy on adequate and appropriate insurance.

CLICK HERE to read or download a copy of ASIC’s Regulatory Guide RG 258.

——————————————————

Contents of RG 258

Continue reading »

Regulating insolvency practitioners: what ASIC aims to achieve in 2016-17

 ASIC, Corporate Insolvency, External administrators, Regulation  Comments Off on Regulating insolvency practitioners: what ASIC aims to achieve in 2016-17
Dec 202016
 

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has a business plan to guide its regulation of insolvency practitioners. In 2016-17 two new projects have been added to the ongoing ones. Here is ASIC’s summary of the plan as published recently on its website …

2016-17 ASIC Business Plan Summary by Sector: Insolvency Practitioners

ASIC Key Projects

ASIC Focus

Stakeholder engagement
Communicating with industry and individual firms to reinforce and articulate standards and expectations (ongoing project)
⚬ Communicating with stakeholders (e.g. through media releases, journal articles, ad-hoc bulletins, regular newsletters), including in relation to surveillance outcomes, to reinforce and articulate standards and expectations

⚬ Releasing key communications, such as:
– Annual report on supervision of registered liquidators
– Monthly insolvency statistics
– Annual report on insolvency statistics

⚬ Engaging with stakeholders, including meeting with individual firms and industry bodies (such as the Australian Restructuring, Insolvency and Turnaround Association (ARITA), Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, CPA Australia, and Australian Financial Security Authority, and other government agencies such as the Australian Taxation Office, Department of Employment and Fair Work Ombudsman

⚬ Participating in and contributing to the Phoenix Taskforce and the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce

Information for registered liquidators and other stakeholders (new project) ⚬ Working closely with industry to further develop guidance and lift standards of conduct

⚬ Reviewing existing ASIC guidance to reflect law reform and improving existing creditor and other stakeholder information published by ASIC

⚬ Reviewing and improving what information registered liquidators currently report to facilitate the assessment and, where appropriate, investigation of reports of alleged misconduct

Registered liquidators’ independence and remuneration (new project) ⚬ Independence (including referral relationships with pre-insolvency advisors) and remuneration (including adequacy of disclosure and reasonableness); anticipated to continue into 2017-18
Surveillance of high-risk registered liquidators (ongoing project) ⚬ Misconduct resulting from conflicts of interest, incompetence and improper gain
Ensuring compliance with statutory lodgements obligations and publication of notices requirements (ongoing project) ⚬ Reviewing registered liquidator outstanding statutory lodgements and publication of notices (including insolvency and external administration related notices) on the ASIC published notices website to identify systemic non-compliance
Lodgement of annual statements (ongoing project) ⚬ Reviewing all annual statements from registered liquidators to detect non-compliance with the requirements to maintain registration, including identification of potential competence concerns
Transactional reviews (ongoing project) ⚬ Undertaking reviews identified through referrals, and responding to identified concerns including:
– inappropriate relationships between registered liquidators and pre-insolvency advisers
– inadequate declarations of relevant relationships and indemnities
– inadequate remuneration disclosure
Investigate and where appropriate take administrative or court action (ongoing project) ⚬ Investigating and taking action against registered liquidator misconduct, as identified through surveillances and referrals
Policy advice
Support development and implementation of key Government law reforms and other initiatives (ongoing project)
⚬ Advising Government on proposed insolvency reforms (including proposed reforms in the Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda) and implementing the Insolvency Law Reform Act 2016, including engaging with Treasury, industry and professional bodies, introducing new guidance and implementing IT and business process changes

⚬ Delivering an enhanced ASIC Form 507 Report as to Affairs (RATA), including stakeholder consultation, to provide better information to facilitate the conduct of external administrations and improve reporting to creditors

⚬ Liaising with Treasury and industry/professional bodies regarding the Government’s proposals/reforms to facilitate corporate restructure (a ‘safe harbour’ and voiding of ipso facto clauses) from the Productivity Commission (in recommendations from its inquiry report into business set-up, transfer and closure) and the Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda

Levy on registered liquidators and other “industries” to help fund ASIC

 ASIC, Corporate Insolvency, External administrators, Regulation  Comments Off on Levy on registered liquidators and other “industries” to help fund ASIC
Dec 022016
 

….(UPDATE to post – 1 April 2017: In an email on 24 March 2017, Adrian Brown, leader of ASIC’s Insolvency Practitioners Team, informed practitioners that following a consultation process ASIC has worked with Treasury “to develop an alternative option for the Minister’s consideration”. The alternative option includes halving the fixed annual levy to $2,500.)….

….(SECOND UPDATE to post – 10 May 2017: The proposed fixed annual levy is now $2500 – SEE MY NEW POST.

A refined proposal for a government levy on registered liquidators – intended to recover costs incurred by the ASIC in regulating them – has been released as part of a Treasury consultation paper titled Proposed Industry Funding Model for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission – November 2016.

treasury consult banner

The proposal in brief

Each registered liquidator would pay a minimum, fixed annual levy of $5,000. On top of that the liquidator would be required to pay an activity-based levy – estimated to be $550 per appointment – for each external administration appointment in the financial year.

External administration appointments includes appointment as a controller, provisional liquidator, liquidator, voluntary administrator or administrator of a deed of company arrangement.

Special rules and adjustments are to apply where registered liquidators are appointed jointly and where an external administration appointment transitions from one type of external administration to another.

The paper states that there are 710 registered liquidators and the levies are aimed at recovering ASIC regulatory costs of $8.5 million.(Supporting attachment to the Government’s Proposals Paper, Table 8)

(More details of the proposal are supplied below, under the heading Extracts from the Consultation paper.)

What the liquidators’ professional association thinks

The Australian Restructuring Insolvency & Turnaround Association (ARITA) opposes the proposed quantum of the levy. In a statement on its website on 9 November ARITA describes the ASIC user-pays funding model for registered liquidators as “highly controversial”. It says:

“ARITA remains strongly of the view that the quantum per practitioner is excessive in every respect and will cause significant harm to the structure of the profession, regardless of the methodology used” , adding that “the quantum is completely disproportionate to other similar profession’s fees”.

ARITA’s detailed analysis and critique of the proposal will be made in a submission to Treasury, due by December 16.

Passing on cost of the per-appointment part of the levy to clients

Continue reading »

Dec 042015
 

The Senate Economics References Committee has criticised the contempt that some directors show for company laws, the “mild” consequences of non-compliance and the low likelihood that unlawful conduct will be detected.

In its report “Insolvency in the Australian construction industry: I just want to be paid” – published 3 December 2015 – the Senate Committee states:

The committee considers that the estimates of the incidence of illegal phoenix activity detailed in this report suggest that construction industry is being beset by a growing culture among some company directors of disregard for the corporations law. This view is reinforced by the anecdotal evidence received by the committee which indicates that phoenixing is considered by some in the industry as merely the way business is done in order to make a profit.

The committee is particularly concerned at evidence that a culture has developed in sections of the industry in which some company directors consider compliance with the corporations law to be optional, because the consequences of non-compliance are so mild and the likelihood that unlawful conduct will be detected is so low.

This culture is reflected in the number of external administrator reports indicating possible breaches of civil and criminal misconduct by company directors in the construction industry. Over three thousand possible cases of civil misconduct and nearly 250 possible criminal offences under the Corporations Act 2001 were reported in a single year in the construction industry. This is a matter for serious concern. It suggests an industry in which company directors’ contempt for the rule of law is becoming all too common.

[from Executive summary, Phoenixing (page xix) and paragraph 5.100 (page 87)]
Continue reading »

Nov 122015
 

Transcripts have now been published for all of the public hearings of the Senate inquiry into insolvencies in construction industry. Phoenixing of companies is the main topic discussed. Several insolvency practitioners have given evidence, and at the hearing in Sydney on 28th September the insolvency profession was criticised by the leading participant, Senator Doug Cameron. At the public hearing in Melbourne on 29th September the Walton Constructions case was discussed in detail by the insolvency practitioners initially appointed as external administrators.

A list of the public hearings and those who appeared as witnesses is provided below. Continue reading »

ASIC winds up more abandoned companies to help employees

 ASIC, Corporate Insolvency, External administration, Insolvency Statistics  Comments Off on ASIC winds up more abandoned companies to help employees
Oct 262015
 

Some directors of insolvent companies abandon their companies rather than adopt the proper course, which is to put the company through formal liquidation under the Corporations Act.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) recently (21 October 2015) published a list of the latest abandoned companies that it has placed in liquidation under the special powers provided in section 489EA of the Corporations Act 2001. This brings to 60 the total of such company liquidations.

Were it not for special powers given to ASIC, abandonment of a company would cause employees who had not been paid their wages, leave and other entitlements to miss out on the compensation administered through the Australian Government’s Fair Entitlements Guarantee scheme (FEG), because such financial assistance is only available to employees of businesses that have gone into liquidation (or bankruptcy in the case of non-corporate employers). So putting an abandoned company into liquidation gives unpaid employees access to the FEG compensation. Unpaid employees of an abandoned companies can submit a request to ASIC to wind up the company.

The latest group of 10 abandoned companies owed at least 15 employees a total in excess of $429,000 in employee entitlements. They are:

LATEST LIST OF ABANDONED COMPANIES
Source: ASIC Media Release 15-305MR, 21-10-2015

Company Name

State

Adelaide Commercial Furniture Pty Ltd SA
JBKM Ventures Pty Ltd QLD
New Energy Technologies Pty Ltd NSW
Rifam Pty Ltd VIC
Let it Rain Pty Ltd NSW
Focus on Training Pty Ltd VIC
YQ Trading Pty Ltd NSW
Parklane Building Corporation Pty Ltd NSW
Sureline Training Services Pty Ltd WA
Australian Veterinary Hospitals (South Australia) Pty Ltd NSW

Apart from the names of the liquidators appointed, this is the only information supplied by ASIC. (The “corporate veil”, or something like it, seems to require that the identity of the company directors be kept confidential.)

As to the costs per company, ASIC said in January 2013:

“The cost of taking winding-up action is generally estimated to be about $15,000. This figure comprises ASIC’s costs and the liquidator’s remuneration.” (Reg Guide 242)

One can only hope that the liquidators are recovering company assets to pay the liquidation costs, or that the directors are penalised in some way for making taxpayers foot the bill.

The 60 abandoned companies wound up by ASIC since 2013 owed a total of 213 employees more than $2.9 million in entitlements.

END OF POST

Government contemplates imposing a regulation levy on external administrators

 ASIC, Corporate Insolvency, External administration, External administrators, Regulation  Comments Off on Government contemplates imposing a regulation levy on external administrators
Aug 312015
 

UPDATE TO THIS POST: In November 2016 the Treasury issued a revised proposal for consultation. See my blog titled “Levy on registered liquidators and other industries to help fund ASIC”.

A Government levy on registered liquidators is included in a draft proposal to adopt an “industry funding” model, or user-pays system, for the Australian Investments and Securities Commission (the ASIC). The levy is intended to recover costs incurred by the ASIC in regulating registered liquidators.

The Consultation Paper, issued on 28 August 2015, estimates that a flat levy on registered liquidators:

“… would equate to around $12,700 per year and some liquidators would potentially pay a high proportional fee relative to their costs of regulation.”

The paper discusses, as another option, the merits of the levy being based on “assets realised”. It states that one point in favour would be that:

“Levying liquidators on the basis of ‘assets realised’ would promote greater harmonisation between bankruptcy and corporate insolvency laws. It would be similar to the asset realisations charge administered by the Australian Financial Security Authority.”

In bankruptcies the liability to pay the asset realisations charge is that of the practitioner, but the amount of charge paid is borne by the estate or administration. This aspect is not discussed in the Consultation Paper. But presumably if the ASIC levy follows the bankruptcy scheme, the levy will be paid from funds held or realised by the company under external administration. Continue reading »

Senate Committee told about phoenix activity in construction industry

 Corporate Insolvency, Insolvency Law, Official Inquiries, Regulation, White collar crime  Comments Off on Senate Committee told about phoenix activity in construction industry
May 292015
 

Parliament website
The Senate Committee established to inquire into “Insolvency in the Australian construction industry” – which is code for illegal phoenix activity in the construction industry – has received written submissions from industry bodies, unions, contractors associations, superannuation funds, insolvency practitioners, the ATO and the ASIC. A total of 18 submissions were received and are available for download from the Parliament of Australia website. Below is a screenshot of the list of submissions.

Submissions to committee